Minnesota employers cut 1,300 jobs last month as the state tottered around what, with each month of new data, increasingly appears to be the peak of the employment cycle.
The state’s unemployment rate climbed another notch to 3.4%, now more than a half-point from its bottom of 2.8% reached during the last four months of 2018.
The decline in the number of people working was the first after four months of increases that added up to nearly 7,000 jobs. In February, however, the state lost 7,800 jobs.
“Even with this slight increase, Minnesota’s unemployment rate remains low and the labor force participation rate remains high,” Steve Grove, the head of the state jobs agency, said in a statement.
While the monthly data is notoriously volatile and subject to revision, data over a longer duration show that Minnesota’s job market is growing at the slowest pace than at any point since the recession in 2008 and 2009.
For the 12 months ended July 31, Minnesota employers added about 15,500 jobs, a growth rate of 0.5% against a base of nearly 3 million working Minnesotans. That is a bit slower than the 0.7% rate the state experienced during the 12 months ended June 30. Both figures are well below the nation’s full-year job growth rate of 1.5%.
Analysts have chiefly attributed that slow rate of growth in Minnesota to the relative dearth of available workers. The state’s labor force participation rate of 70% is well ahead of the nation’s.
But the U.S. economy is growing more slowly than last year, when it got a boost from the federal tax cut. And signals are emerging from the bond market that investors believe the economy is edging closer to an actual downturn. As a result, in coming months, employment data will take on greater significance as an indicator of how the slowing economy is affecting Minnesota. During the last two recessions, the state’s job market didn’t tumble as far as the nation’s did.
For now, the July data showed that four of the 11 sectors defined by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development gained jobs. The construction sector performed best, adding 1,600 jobs. Education and health care, considered one sector, was next with a gain of 1,000 jobs.
Of the seven sectors that lost jobs, the biggest cut happened in the leisure and hospitality sector, which had 3,000 fewer jobs. The services sector lost 1,200 jobs in July.
The state’s five urban areas all showed job gains, with the biggest jump happening in St. Cloud, which had 1.5% growth. The Twin Cities showed job growth of a mere 0.1% last month.